Calgary Child Psychologist and Social Media
For most adults, social media has become a reliable source of communication, news, and entertainment. Is it healthy for children to do the same?
Although most social media apps have a minimum age of 13 years old, 50% of children 10 to 12 years old and 33% of children 7 to 9 years old regularly use social media apps. Mitch Prinstein, the chief science officer for the American Psychological Association stated that “the age at which children begin to use social media is an area of great concern.” There are two critical periods for adaptive neurodevelopment in humans. One is during the first year of life and the other is between the ages of 10-25 years old. Throughout this latter period of development, youth are typically offered unlimited, unrestricted access to social media and other technological platforms.
Brain regions involved in restricting our behavior and limiting temptations, such as the prefrontal cortex, do not fully develop until we reach our mid-twenties. In other words, when it comes to youths’ cravings for social attention, they are ‘all gas pedal with no brakes.’”, states Prinstein. It's possible that children lack the capacity to limit their social media usage, and will develop a clinical dependency on social media.
Although Social Media is meant to foster relationships and help build new connections, many youth use the sites to compare themselves to others, leading them to seek approval and validation, rather than healthy relationships. As youths begin to spend more time on social media, they may miss out on areas crucial for healthy development, such as sleep. Research suggests that a lack of sleep can lead to poor school performance, attention problems, and increased stress.
How can I keep my child safe on Social Media
The most vital way to ensure your child is staying safe on social media is to learn about the platforms that they are using. Teach yourself the purpose for using each platform so that you are able to answer questions and feel confident knowing the way your child is using the app. Ensure your child understands the value of real-world connections, and to keep online friendships in the online world. It's important to emphasize that if your child wishes to meet an online friend in real life, it should only happen in a public location and under the supervision of a trusted adult. Make sure your child knows that what they post online is there forever. As a general rule, inform them that they shouldn’t post anything that they wouldn’t want a teacher or grandparent to read.
How do I know when my child is ready for social media?
Your child's readiness to use social media should not be based solely on their age. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children 12 years old and younger should not have access to social media platforms. For some children, social media has the potential to become problematic, and some may not yet be equipped to handle it. At the end of the day, you know your child best and will be able to make decisions in their best interest.